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3 Fabulous Blouses: Tie, Collar, Seam

Discover pattern manipulation techniques and understand pattern engineering

A basic shell (or bodice) is the cornerstone of a blouse design. Made with two simple pattern pieces (front and back), a shell lends itself to endless redesign possibilities. By following along with our redesign projects, you’ll discover good pattern manipulation techniques and develop a greater understanding of pattern engineering.

Here, we used the dress bodice in our Simplicity Sew Stylish pattern 3631 as our shell and gave it new life in three different incarnations. First, we made it with a sultry V-neckline and long tie-up bow. Next, we played with the facing and flipped it out to get a darling Peter Pan collar. Finally, we went seam crazy and drew in a new horizontal seam that makes it perfect for color blocking. In the following pages, we’ll show you how to make these changes on your own bodice pattern.

Lower the neckline and add a tie

Sometimes, it’s hard to find the perfect neckline. But making slight neckline changes to a pattern isn’t complicated. All you need is a curved ruler. Hold the pattern up, align the shoulder seams on top of your shoulders, and take a look at the neckline. Make a pencil mark where you’d like the center front of the neckline to be, and follow the steps below.

How to do it:

Lower the neckline

blouses pattern for lower neckline
Lower the neckline

1 Mark the depth of your neckline on the center front (CF) fold line.

2 Use a French curve to draw a new smooth curve from the shoulder to the center front.

3 Add a seam allowance.

4 If you change the width of the neckline, you’ll also have to adjust the back pattern piece where it meets the shoulder. Just align the shoulder seams, use the front pattern to establish the shoulder length, and use a French curve to draw the new back neckline.

Add a tie

1 Cut a bias strip 5 inches wide by 50 to 90 inches long; you can piece the tie in the middle if needed. If you want to tie a bow, make it longer than if it hangs straight. Test the length with a ribbon or string before you cut your strip.

2 Measure the circumference of the neckline.

3 Fold the strip in half lengthwise, and stitch the raw edges together, leaving an opening the length of the circumference in the center.

4 To attach the tie, start at center back: with right sides together, sew one edge of the open section to the bodice neckline, and stop stitching about 1⁄2 inch from CF. Repeat on the other side. Fold the remaining raw strip edge over the neckline seam and hand- or machine-edge stitch it to finish the neckline.

5 Roll the raw neckline edge between the ties to the inside, and hand-stitch to
secure it. Or, if you line the top, catch the neckline edge in the lining.

Add a pretty collar

Even though its true purpose is to finish and support a garment edge, a facing offers design opportunities, too. A facing pattern makes a great collar. But our pattern didn’t have facings, so we’ll show you how to make them too. It’s a handy thing to know.

How to do it:

Make a facing

facing for blouses pattern adjustment
Make a facing

Lay see-through paper over the edge you want to face and trace the pattern information, including seamlines, darts, seam allowances, and connecting seams. Draw a line 2 inches away from the edge you’re facing. If your edge contains darts, fold them shut when you cut your fabric.

Make a collar

make a collar for blouses
Make a collar

1 Pin or tape the bodice front and back pattern pieces together at the shoulder seams.

2 Trace the neckline seam from center back to center front. Draw a line 11⁄2 inches away from the first line as shown.

3 Mark a point 1⁄2 inch from the center front line. Draw a diagonal line from the center front to the marked point.

4 Add a seam allowance on all edges but the center back (CB), which is placed on the fold when cutting your collar. Cut the collar pattern in one piece. Then cut two collars from your fabric. With the right sides together, sew the outside edges. Clip, trim, turn, and press.

5 For a clean finish, also cut a facing or line your top. To attach the collar, layer the bodice right-side up, collar right-side up, and facing or lining wrong-side up. Sew around the neckline, and turn the facing or lining to the inside.

Draft in a maverick seam

To add style lines and get great mileage from your favorite bodice pattern, add a seam or two. It’s this simple: draw a line where you want a seam, position cross marks to help align the pieces later. Cut along the line, and add a seam allowance to both new edges. To keep the upper bodice unbroken, we rotated the dart into the new seam. (See “Darts 101”on p. 53.)

make a collar for blouses Draw pattern adjustment lines blouse pattern adjustmentCut along lines blouse pattern adjustmentSew the pieces together

How to do it:

1 Draw a line from the bust point diagonally to the side seam at the waistline.

2 Draw a line from the bust point perpendicular to the center front (CF) line.

3 Cut along one dart leg and tape it to the opposite dart leg. The pattern will peak up in a shallow funnel.

4 Cut along the diagonal line and allow the pattern to open, forming a new dart.

5 Cut along the horizontal line to separate the two sections. Add seam allowances to all new edges.

6 Cut one piece from the main fabric and the second from a coordinating fabric.

7 Before you sew the two pieces together, prepare the upper section by staystitching the angle (shown in purple) at right and clipping the seam allowance up to the stitching. Sew with the top bodice piece over the bottom. With the needle down, pivot at the corner, adjust the fabric until the seamlines match, and continue to sew. Sew the new seam first. Topstitch along the seam if desired, and then sew your garment as usual.

Hot stuff bonus: Cowl

A detachable cowl is more like jewelry than a scarf and enables you to change a garment instantly. It looks like part of the garment when it’s worn but folds away into nothing when it’s not. This is a perfect travel accessory. Creating a detachable cowl also lets you add a touch of extravagant fabric without breaking the bank.

cowl pattern piece

1 Follow the pattern illustration below to draw your pattern. To prevent your cowl from looking like a scarf, trim off the points as shown with the green dotted lines.

2 Cut your working pattern on folded paper so that you can cut your fabric in a single layer. Position the opened pattern on a single layer of fabric following the “fabric layout” above, and cut your fabric.

cowl blouse diagram

3 Sew a narrow hem along the neck and lower edge. Simply stitch 1⁄8 inch from the edge, fold the edge to the wrong side along the stitching, and stitch again as close to the edge as you can.

4 Fold the neck edge to the wrong side and pinch pleats in the shoulders to make a soft drape. Adjust the length to suit your size before finishing the shoulders. Then pin the pleats, and use a scrap of matching fabric to create a binding for the edge.

5 Sew two hooks on each shoulder end. Sew corresponding thread eyes buried in the shoulder seam of the garment you plan to wear. Tip: use thread that matches the garment, and it will never show.

Judith Neukam is senior technical editor.

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Basic Torso Adjustments
Bust Fitting
Sleeves and Shoulders
Construction Secrets: Collars, Yokes, Cuffs, Vents, Plackets
Make It Your Own